When Should Your Child Watch TV?

Posted by Ranie Denver on February 26, 2015

The television is such a common form of entertainment that we don't often think about whether it's good or not for babies or young children. Experts say that children under the age of two shouldn't watch it at all, but practically speaking, how does one keep a two year old toddler from watching TV if the rest of the family is?

And how does one limit viewing to the recommended 30 minutes to an hour for older children?

It may take some adjustment on your part and it may even be difficult but the effort is worth it. Very young children, those under the age of two, will only see a confusion on the screen. They can't follow story lines and can't tell the difference between the characters and commercials. Watching television takes time away that could be better spent exploring their world in much more positive ways.

Even older children have trouble knowing what is pretend and what is for real. When an actor dies and is back to life in another story, what does death mean to an immature mind? When a hero survives impossible situations or a cartoon character zips through burning hoops, how can a child understand real danger?

Watching too much television, especially unsupervised television, has been shown to increase the tendencies of violent behavior and other social problems as well as unwanted weight gain. Passivity becomes a problem as creativity is overcome by ready made entertainment which requires nothing from them.

When kids who have watched a lot of television as toddlers start preschool or kindergarten, they may have a harder time adjusting to an active world. A Yale Family Television Research study showed that children who watched a lot of television were less happy overall and tended to be less imaginative and less cooperative.

There are exceptions to limited viewing, of course. You may find a series of nature programs or special events that your child will enjoy and that's fine. Let them watch the show, then turn the television off promptly. Let your children grow up in the habit of viewing television as a thing disconnected from every day living and it won't take over their lives.

To answer the question posed above, you may have a television in the family room that's only turned on at certain times for the kids and you watch your own set somewhere else, or you may record your favorite shows to watch later so that timing won't be a problem. Most toddlers go to bed earlier than their parents, so you can relax and watch television when they are asleep. It's worth a little adjustment on our parts to raise happier, better adjusted kids.